Best things to see and do in Albania in 10 days. Discover the country’s most famous landmarks and tourist hotspots in our Albania 10-day itinerary!
This Albania 14-day itinerary is a part of our broader travel guide for the country. We recommend you check it out for the best travel tips and the most accurate information on transportation, hotels, restaurants and best beaches in Albania.
Planning a 10-day adventure in Albania will give you the perfect opportunity to enjoy the wonders of its famous Riviera, explore fascinating historical Ottoman cities and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of Tirana, the capital. However, be prepared for a pretty exhilarating pace since there’s so much to see and explore during this limited time, even if we had to leave out the extraordinary Albanian Alps, perhaps the most underrated mountain region in all of Europe.
Be that as it may, if you have more time to spare, or if you only have a week available, we have a couple other exciting itineraries you might want to take a look at:
So, without further ado, here are the cities, places and tourist attractions you should visit in a 10-day itinerary through Albania:
Whether you arrive in the country by plane, bus or ferry, your first day in Tirana will likely be a bit more on the shorter side. So, if you’re on the lookout for a great spot to have dinner, we highly recommend visiting the BLLOKU district, just a 20-minute walk from the city center. During the communist era under Enver Hoxha’s rule, this was the area where government officials and the Politburo lived, closed-off to the rest of the people. But with the fall of the regime, BLLOKU transformed into a trendy neighborhood, now home to some of the city’s best cafes, bars and restaurants. It will only take you a while to notice Albanians absolutely ADORE cafes, socializing and spending hours on end sitting at a coffee table.
On the other hand, and much like the Spaniards and the Italians, Albanians have the cultural habit of going out and meeting-up after work, before heading home for dinner. In fact, this practice is so ingrained in Tirana that they even have a term for it – “take a xhiro” (pronounced “dzhiró”). And when it comes to the coolest places for a “xhiro”, none is trendier than BLLOKU!
First day wrap-up:
With your energy fully restored after a good night’s sleep, it’s time to dive deep into Tirana! Today, you’ll explore the city center and visit some of its most renowned museums. By now, you will have noticed that Tirana is not a particularly pretty place. After Hoxha took power in 1944, this lunatic leader decided to demolish pretty much every classical or ancient building, replacing them with the stereotypical brutalist building blocks, along with other bizarre structures. Nevertheless, some remnants of old Tirana still exist – if only you know where to look! As such, let’s kick things off at Pazari i Ri, one of Tirana’s liveliest central neighborhoods. Translated as “The New Bazaar”, this district underwent a complete renovation in 2016 to become the city’s new main marketplace. Symbolically, the old and beautiful Ottoman bazaar, destroyed by Hoxha’s regime, used to stand precisely at this location. In this neighborhood, you’ll find the historic Kokonozi Mosque, one of the few that lasted to this day.
Next up, you’ll arrive at the grand Skanderbeg Square, the heart of the Albanian capital, where a statue of the country’s national hero stands tall. There are several points of interest spread around the giant square, including the National Historical Museum of Albania (500 LEK), the Clock Tower (200 LEK), an Ottoman symbol offering one of the most breathtaking views of the city center, and the Ethem Bey Mosque, the most important historical place of worship in the country, which was surprisingly spared from Hoxha’s destructive wave. In the vicinity of the square, you’ll also encounter Bunk’Art 2. Since the dictator had few allies (even the Soviet Union and China eventually cut ties with Albania), Hoxha lived in a perpetual state of paranoia, constantly in fear at the imaginary threat of chemical and nuclear attacks. Consequently, he ordered the construction of hundreds of thousands of bunkers throughout the country, and while most of these constructions are very small, Bunk’Art 2 was a government bunker, featuring an extensive network of tunnels and underground chambers. Today, this massive bunker has been transformed into the Bunk’Art 2 Museum (600 LEK), providing insights into this dark period of Albanian history, with a particular focus on the political persecutions carried out by the Sigurimi, the state police.
After your museum visit, take a leisurely stroll along Murat Toptani Street, one of Tirana’s few pedestrian streets, and explore the interior of the old Tirana Castle. Despite its name, only the castle walls remain, while the interior has been transformed into an upscale food court, to try to rival BLLOKU’s reputation. Just a short distance away, you’ll come face-to-face with two perfect examples of Turkish/Ottoman influence in Albania. First, the brand-new Namazgah Mosque, financed by Turkey and expected to be completed later this year. Once finished, it will become the largest mosque in the entire Balkans, with its façade reminiscent of the monumental mosques once can find in Istanbul. A little further down the road, you’ll see the tiny Tanners’ Bridge, an ancient pedestrian passage and one of the few architectural remnants of the Ottoman occupation dating back hundreds of years.
Finally, your first full day in Albania will come to an end at the Pyramid of Tirana. Erected after Hoxha’s death to serve as a museum in his honor, the original plan was abandoned following the fall of communism in Albania. Over time, it has served various purposes and its demolition has even been contemplated several times due to its deteriorated condition. However, in 2018, a mega-project was approved to transform the Pyramid into a hub for technology and innovation, preserving the building’s unique shape. Once completed, it will undoubtedly become one of the trendiest spots in Tirana. Close by, you can also visit the Postbllok Memorial, a small artistic exhibition featuring one of the many mini-bunkers you’ll come across during your adventure, a piece of the Berlin Wall and a set of beams from an Albanian political prison.
Second day wrap-up:
On your last day in Tirana, we’ll start the morning with a trip to the nearby city of Kruje, just 30km away. Despite its close proximity, Kruje offers a completely different experience from the bustling capital, with the towering buildings and busy streets giving way to a quaint and charming atmosphere. Furthermore, Kruje holds huge historical significance as the birthplace of Skanderbeg, the national hero we mentioned earlier. It was once the capital of the first recorded Albanian territory in the 12th century and later became the capital of the officially recognized Kingdom of Albania, a century later. Even after falling under Ottoman rule for the first time, Kruje regained its independence under Skanderbeg’s leadership, only to be occupied again after his death. As a final detail, Kruje was the place that witnessed the first major protests against Ottoman occupation in Albania in 1903, ultimately leading to the country’s definitive independence. As one can imagine, this rich history and legacy have further cemented Kruje as the cradle of the Albanian nation. While visiting the town, be sure to explore the Pazari i Krujës, an ancient and extremely picturesque bazaar that basically occupies the entire city center. Atop the hill, you’ll find the Kruje Castle, home to the Skanderbeg Museum (500 LEK), which provides a fascinating insight into the life of Albania’s most prominent figure and his struggle for independence. If you want to find out more about one of the craziest story arches I have ever seen, this is definitely one not to miss!
Once back in Tirana, take a detour to the suburbs and visit Bunk’Art 1 (500 LEK). Don’t be surprised by the name; it’s indeed another museum from the same institution as the one you visited the previous day. While Bunk’Art 2 attracts more visitors due to its central location, Bunk’Art 1 offers a more captivating, atmospheric and impressive experience, standing as the largest bunker ever built in Albania, with over 3000 square meters and 106 rooms spread across five underground floors. Exploring its dimly lit and silent corridors, can feel quite eerie and isolated, especially because you’ll barely see any other tourists there. As for the museum, it showcases Albania’s 20th-century history, providing an intriguing glimpse of the living spaces, offices and rooms used for government activities, including those destined for Mr. Hoxha himself in case of an attack! The underground theater and various artistic installations only add to the experience, allowing you to simulate nuclear and chemical attacks and picture what would have been like for those hiding in the bunkers. To end the day on a “high” note (pun intended), hop on the Dajti Ekspres (800 LEK round trip), a cable car that will whisk you to the summit of Mount Dajti, where you’ll be treated to the most breathtaking views of Tirana!
Third day wrap-up:
As you prepare to leave Tirana behind and start a new chapter in your journey, we recommend heading to the charming town of Berat, nicknamed the “City of a Thousand Windows”. Hailed as one of the oldest and most historical cities in Albania, Berat stands in stark contrast to the capital, having retained its old-world charm and preserved its historic character. In fact, it’s one of the two Albanian towns designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s not hard to see why! Cut in half by the Osum River, Berat was originally split between Christians and Muslims. To get the most out of your visit to Berat, start by crossing the Gorica Bridge and exploring the picturesque alleys of the Gorica District, known as the Christian quarter. Although there might not be any major landmarks here, it’s a delightful area to stroll around, soaking in the ancient architecture before heading to the busier Islamic district. While taking in the views of the whitewashed houses across the river, this is where you’ll start understanding how the city got its nickname!
Crossing to the opposite side of the river, you’ll reach the heart of the Mangalem District, the Islamic quarter. This is where you’ll start the steep climb up to the fabulous Berat Castle (300 LEK), the town’s main highlight. Once inside, you’ll be amazed to find a mini-village with locals living among the historical ruins, along with a few cozy hotels and charming restaurants hidden in between the alleyways, cobblestoned streets, ancient ruins (White Mosque and Red Mosque) and old byzantine churches (Church of the Holy Trinity and Church of Saint Mary of Blachernae). Plus, once you reach the castle’s viewpoint, you’ll have to pick up your jaw from the floor! On your way back down, take a moment to visit the King’s Mosque and the Lead Mosque. If you’re lucky (and brave) enough, you can even try ascending the former’s minaret for a stunning, albeit claustrophobic experience. Before bidding farewell to Berat and moving on to Gjirokaster, where you’ll spend the night, take a stroll along Bulevardi Republika, capturing one last iconic view of the city’s whitewashed houses and countless windows.
Fourth day wrap-up:
Out of all the historical Ottoman towns in Albania, Gjirokaster stands out as arguably the best preserved of the lot, since walking through the charming streets of the “Stone City”, as it’s fondly called, feels like rewinding the tape and stepping back in time. Nowadays, it’s an Albanian city with traditional Ottoman architecture and whose population (and its culture) bears significant Greek roots, making it a one-of-a-kind place. Remember when we mentioned that Berat was one of the two Albanian towns recognized by UNESCO? Well, Gjirokaster is the other!
To make the most of your day, we suggest starting by visiting some of the captivating historic houses from the Ottoman period. These family mansions are adorned with traditional decorations from centuries ago and boast their own water supply and defense mechanisms, providing an immersive experience into Gjirokaster’s history. Skenduli House and Zekate House (200 LEK each), are the most popular house-museums in the city. As you continue your journey, you’ll find yourself in the heart of the Old Town, whose lovely cobblestoned streets are now mostly occupied by the sprawling Old Bazaar of Gjirokaster. Nearby, you should also visit the Bazaar Mosque and the intriguing Cold War Tunnel (200 LEK), yet another example of the dictator’s intriguing paranoia in the form of a 59-room underground bunker. You can arrange guided tours of the tunnel at the Tourism Information Center.
An ever-present feature overlooking the city, the imposing Castle of Gjirokaster (200 LEK) is the next stop in our itinerary. Perched atop a hill, a visit to this impressive fortress offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Old Town and the bustling bazaar. Lastly, we recommend taking a walk through the charming Manalat Quarter and its elevated areas, until you eventually reach the Ali Pasha Bridge, an ancient aqueduct that once carried water from springs to the castle’s cisterns. As the sun sets on the horizon, it’s time to make your way towards the Albanian Riviera, where you can spend the night in either Ksamil or Sarande.
Fifth day wrap-up:
On the sixth day of your journey, you’ve finally reached the enchanting Albanian Riviera –
probably the region that drew you here in the first place! It’s not surprising, as there’s simply no other spot in Europe that offers such breathtaking beaches and coastal beauty within this budget. If you want to put that reputation to the test, let’s start with Ksamil, the most famous coastal village in Albania. While, in my opinion, there are even better (and cheaper) places along the Riviera, you shouldn’t miss spending at least one morning exploring this charming spot. Apart from the well-known and bustling Bora Bora and Ksamilit beaches, you can also take a refreshing swim to the Ksamil islets or, if you prefer to save your energy, rent a kayak and paddle your way there.
Right next to Ksamil, just a stone’s throw from the Greek border, we highly recommend a visit to the Butrint National Park (1000 LEK), a fascinating natural reserve and the most important archaeological site in the country. Amidst the natural wonders of freshwater lakes, swamps, plains and jaw-dropping views of the surrounding landscapes, you’ll be transported back in time while exploring the Roman ruins of theaters, forums, temples, baths and aqueducts, as well as a full fortress and an acropolis dating from the Venetians. Trust me, it’s truly one of the most remarkable archaeological sites you’ll ever come across – and UNESCO-recognized!
As the day draws to a close, a short 18 km drive will take you to Saranda, the most important urban center in the Albanian Riviera and the largest city in southern Albania. While it might not have the same quaint charm as some of the smaller villages nearby, the location is simply magical, as Saranda is nestled in a natural bay between lush green hills and the crystal-clear waters of the Ionian Sea, with the Greek island of Corfu majestically peeking on the horizon. To catch the city in all its picturesque glory, make sure to witness the sunset from either Lekuresi Castle or the lesser-known Monastery of the 40 Saints (200 LEK). And after the night falls, watch the city come alive (and indulge in a delicious ice cream along the way) by strolling along the Saranda Beachfront Boulevard.
Sixth day wrap-up:
As you leave Saranda behind, get ready to explore a bit more along the stunning Albanian coast, discovering fantastic beaches, castle ruins and even some semi-abandoned villages, all while driving on the scenic SH8 National Highway, one of the most memorable road trips in Europe.
Your first stop will take place in Borsh, a place where you’ll find the most extensive beach along the entire Ionian Sea, stretching for over 7 kms. While you’re here, venture away from the coast and up to Sopot Hill, where you can visit the dramatic ruins of Borsh Castle and the Hajji Bendo Mosque. Hitting the road again, this time you’ll take a slight detour and follow a steep gravel path to the sleepy village of Upper Qeparo. This hidden gem was pretty much left abandoned after the fall of Communism, with most of its Greek-speaking population migrating to the Hellenic neighbors. While exploring its narrow streets, ancient façades and abandoned ruins, you’ll notice the curious and inquisitive gazes from the friendly locals who have in the meantime returned to help bring the village back to life.
And just when you thought the day couldn’t get any better, your final stop will be Himare, the main hub in this section of the Riviera. Stroll along the beautiful Stageio Beach and check out the fascinating ruins of Himare Castle, which offer some of the most breathtaking views along the entire coastline. If time allows, consider a quick visit to the Castle of Porto Palermo (300 LEK), the only one in the region that isn’t in ruins, located just 6 kilometers away from Himare.
Seventh day wrap-up:
As the sun rises on another beautiful day, get ready for yet another thrilling adventure along the Albanian Riviera! Today’s journey starts with a visit to the renowned Gjipe Beach, hailed as one of the finest in the entire region. The fact that this wonderful beach remains relatively hidden and somewhat inaccessible only adds to its allure! With the sea on one side and a stunning canyon on the other, reaching this secluded spot requires leaving your car in a designated parking area (300 LEK/day) and walking for about 30 minutes along a trail. Sure, it may not sound like the most glamorous approach, but trust us, once you catch that first glimpse of the beach, you’ll understand why this one is a can’t-miss.
Since Gjipe promises to be the highlight of the day, the rest of our planned destinations, Vuno and Dhermi, will be just quick stops. Offering breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea, these two picturesque little villages are perched on the slopes. Park the car, allow yourself some 30 minutes to meander through their streets and stairways, and check their orthodox churches and monasteries, before calling it a day.
Eighth day wrap-up:
As your adventure by the coast comes to a close, there’s one last breathtaking experience awaiting you along the SH8 – the Llogara Pass! This mountain gorge, nestled within the Llogara National Park, offers a mesmerizing drive through the stunning blues and greens of the Albanian Riviera.
Ironically, your final destination is actually the very starting point of the Riviera: the city of Vlore. You’ll have the morning to check out its main sights, spending some time at the beach, visiting the Independence Monument, strolling along the Lungomare Avenue and exploring the 500-year-old historic Muradie Mosque. If time allows, consider adding the quaint village of Narta, the intriguing Zvarnec Monastery or the captivating Kanine Castle to your bucket-list list. Each of these nearby attractions offers its own unique allure.
In the afternoon, we suggest taking a short trip to the neighboring city of Fier and visit the Apollonia Archaeological Park (300 LEK), an ancient Greek colony holding some of the best-preserved ruins in the country, before making your way back to Vlore, where you’ll spend the night.
Ninth day wrap-up:
The time has finally come to bid Albania farewell! So, and depending on your flight’s STD, today’s agenda will revolve around returning to the airport and handling all the necessary formalities for the car rental drop-off (or arranging transportation from the city center to the airport if you didn’t rent a car).
What an adventure!